For the anti-immigrant hardliners in the Trump Administration, like Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions, DACA posed something of a problem. They had ridden the Trump train specifically to curb immigration and end programs like DACA, but Donald Trump had also claimed to have sympathy for Dreamers and said he would treat them with “heart.” Six months into the Administration, to the anger of some in their white nationalist base, DACA had still not been ended, and it was not clear that Trump would take action. When Sessions looked like he wanted to make a move on DACA, Trump stated, “It’s a decision that I make.”
Enter Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, another anti-immigrant extremist, who in late June notified the Trump Administration that he would sue them if they did not end DACA by the arbitrary date of September 5. Trump ended DACA on September 5, and the Mark Krikorians and Ann Coulters of the world were placated.
Was Ken Paxton’s lawsuit a little too convenient? Did Sessions and Paxton collude in a backchannel plan to force Trump’s hand and bring down DACA?
Sessions won’t talk about DACA collusion — but Paxton has. The White House is hiding something too.
That’s something Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) tried to get to at Sessions’ Department of Justice oversight hearing yesterday:
Durbin: Did you have any communication with the Attorney Generals threatening to bring lawsuits to DACA before the decision was made?
Sessions: That kind of legal discussion I believe would be part of the work product of the attorney general office and I should not reveal it.
Durbin: You are saying you are privileged that that communication is privileged? That you had a communication with the Texas Attorney General about the threatened lawsuit against DACA before the Administration’s announcement?
Sessions: …That is correct. I will review it. If i feel it’s appropriate for me to reveal to you, I will do so.
Durbin goes on to point out that Sessions, when he was a Senator, would have flipped out at this kind of thing. The US Attorney General may have colluded with the Attorney General of another state in a scheme to force an executive decision, and Sessions won’t tell us whether they even spoke.
Ken Paxton did, however. When Politico asked him the same question a couple of weeks ago, Paxton was apparently so proud of his role in DACA’s recision that he was slightly less than discreet:
Politico: Were you in touch with the Trump administration about ending DACA before you sent the letter?
Paxton: Yeah, we had some back-and-forth conversations….
Politico: Did you contact the Justice Department about ending DACA?
Paxton: We talked to them some….
This already presents a possible discrepancy with something Jeff Sessions’ office told us. In July, America’s Voice sent a Freedom of Information Request to Sessions’ office asking for all communications between the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and Ken Paxton’s office relating to the lawsuit threat against DACA. Sessions’ office sent us back Paxton’s public letter announcing the lawsuit threat, saying “the OAG does not maintain any additional information responsive to either category of your request.”
The whole Trump Administration acts like it’s hiding something in relation to DACA. This week, a federal judge ruled that the Administration must turn over all emails and memos used to make its decision to end deferred action — a ruling that happened because the files already supplied by the Administration in response to pro-DACA lawsuits coming out of California are clearly missing key documents. None of the communications between Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke and her subordinates were handed over, for example, and “it strains credulity to suggest that the Acting Secretary of DHS decided to rescind a program covering 800,000 enrollees without consulting one advisor or subordinate within DHS,” the ruling said.
In summary, Jeff Sessions won’t say whether or not he communicated with Paxton’s office about DACA. Paxton says he definitely communicated with Sessions’ office but hasn’t told us the extent. Sessions’ office is on the record saying that there are no written communications between the two on the subject of Paxton’s lawsuit threat. And the Trump Administration is almost certainly withholding documents relating to the process of ending DACA.
Did Sessions and Paxton secretly collude in order to upend the lives of 800,000 young people? The federal ruling calls for Trump’s documents to be turned over by October 27 — so we might soon figure it out. And, Trump might just learn how his team gets their way in spite of him.